PEI

P.E.I. preparing for negative economic impacts of COVID-19

The province is making changes to deal with the expected economic impact of COVID-19, says P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.

'There's so much that is unknown right now and so much of this is outside of our control'

The first cruise ships of the season are scheduled to arrive in Charlottetown on April 29. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The province is taking steps to protect workers and industries from any negative economic impact of COVID-19, says P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.

The Island is vulnerable to national and international issues because the primary industries of agriculture, fisheries and tourism rely heavily on foreign markets, he said. 

King said a response committee is taking a close look at the lasting implications of what it could do to the Island economy. He said extending employment insurance benefits or eliminating the waiting period to receive EI are possibilities.

"We need to have some help with maybe some wage subsidies for some of our primary sectors," he said.

"For example, if tourism bookings are off and people aren't coming to work in May, can we, through assistance with the federal government, provide some wage subsidies for employees to keep them rolling?"

Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority, says in the short term, there will be impacts to flights. (CBC)

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I., but signs of the economic impact are looming.

On Tuesday, Air Canada announced for the month of May it will cancel one of its two daily flights between Charlottetown and Montreal because of reduced demand.

Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority, is hoping the situation gets better before the summer tourism season.

"We're still a little ways out from the summer in terms of what could happen, but we certainly know short-term there will be some impacts."

The first cruise ships, in what was expected to be a busy season for the port of Charlottetown, are scheduled to arrive April 29. 

Spokesperson Corryn Clemence said the port is proactively developing a plan to deal with the COVID-19 situation.

'Precautionary measures'

"We continue to research as well as communicate with cruise lines and both provincial and federal authorities to establish thorough preventative and precautionary measures," she said in a news release.

It shows how vulnerable we are as a province— P.E.I. Premier Dennis King

"The cruise industry on Prince Edward Island plays a vital role in the overall tourism sector, and Port Charlottetown will make every effort to ensure that the Island economy remains the primary beneficiary of this industry."

King said the Island economy is in a strong position to deal with impacts, but projections going forward are being scaled back in terms of growth. 

"There's so much that is unknown right now and so much of this is outside of our control. It shows how vulnerable we are as a province," he said.

"If people in Japan aren't going to baseball games and they're not going to restaurants, that has an impact on our exports of lobster and other products. So we're really just trying to deal with the new realities as they come, trying to do what we can as a province to help our industries weather the pending storm."

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With files from Kerry Campbell

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